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UN General Assembly plenary session focuses on road safety for the first time in history

Countries discuss measures to reduce 1.2 million death toll on the world's roads

Today, for the first time, the United Nations General Assembly gathered for a plenary session devoted to road safety. The session comes just one week after World Health Day when the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the World report on road traffic injury prevention. During the General Assembly session, governments and UN agencies discussed how to implement the report's recommendations, aimed at stemming the growing toll of injury and death on the world's roads.

Road traffic injuries kill 1.2 million people every year and injure or disable as many as 50 million more. Road crashes are the second leading cause of death globally among young people aged five to 29 and the third leading cause of death among people aged 30 to 44 years. They cost low and middle income countries more than the total development aid they receive.

Road traffic deaths and injuries can be prevented. “The key to successful prevention lies in the commitment of all relevant sectors, public and private – health, transport, education, finance, police, legislators, manufacturers, foundations and the media – to make road safety happen,” said Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General.

On World Health Day, 7 April last week, tens of thousands of people participating in hundreds of events around the world. This meeting of the General Assembly today, strongly builds on the global momentum triggered by World Health Day, when the call for action on road safety was loud and clear. We must now use every day to act on road safety, and implement effective sustainable action to prevent injury and death on the world's roads,” said Dr LEE Jong-wook, Director-General of WHO.

This historic plenary session follows last year’s two UN resolutions on road safety, and the UN Secretary General’s report on the global road safety crisis that calls for an urgent international response to address this major public health issue.

Other key stakeholders in road safety will meet tomorrow in New York , to determine how best to harness the political will generated through World Health Day activities and the UN General Assembly meeting to improve road safety. Among the participants are representatives from civil societies, government agencies, and international organizations, including WHO, the World Bank, United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Celebrations on 7 April commemorating World Health Day included a wide range of events—from the global celebration in Paris attended by French President Jacques Chirac, Dr Lee Jong-wook, and several ministers and other road safety experts, to music, drama and poetry contests on the theme of “Safe roads, safe lives” in Uganda. Celebrations also included “Anywhere, anytime” speed enforcement campaigns in New Zealand; the “Safe Kids” programme that awards those who have made special efforts to promote road safety in the United Arab Emirates and the launch of a new seat-belt initiative in China.

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Ms Laura Sminkey
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